Total carrier bag use continues to fall

25th August 2010

With the help of consumers, the UK’s leading supermarkets have continued to reduce the total number of bags given out by 41% since figures were first recorded in 2006, WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has announced today.  This figure compares to a 35% reduction recorded in 2009.

In 2006 a total of 10.9 billion bags (including single-use bags, bags-for-life and reusable bags such as cotton and jute) were used.  That number has since decreased by 4.5 billion to 6.5 billion per year in 2009/10, reducing the amount of material used in bags by 39,700 tonnes per year. 

Within that overall reduction, the number of ‘single-use’ carrier bags issued has been reduced by 43%.  This is a reduction of 4.6 billion single-use bags per year (45,800 tonnes per year), compares to a 37% reduction recorded in 2008/9. 

Monthly May data

WRAP’s other measurement – a spot check analysis of bag use during the month of May – has also recorded a reduction in total bag use.  395 million bags less bags were used in May 2010 than in May 2006 – a 44% reduction, compared to a reduction of 43% last year. 

Within this measurement, the number of single-use bags has increased slightly from May 2009.  In May 2010, 45% fewer bags were used than in May 2006, compared to 48% fewer in 2009. 

Context

This progress has been made against a back-drop of 6.3% sales growth by signatory supermarkets between 2006 and 2009 with the number of items sold increasing from 48.5 billion to 51.5 billion.      

In 2010, WRAP has reported additional ‘annual trend data’ as this represents a more comprehensive picture of UK carrier bag use. 

In 2008, the UK Governments, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and leading supermarkets agreed to a voluntary approach to cut the number of single-use bags given to customers by 50% by spring 2009. 

WRAP’s role has been to monitor the progress of the agreement through data collection and analysis.  In May 2009, WRAP reported that retailers had cut the number of single-use bags by 48%.  Although the formal agreement ended last year, this year retailers volunteered to share their data.

The following tables show:

  1. Annual trend figures for total bag use for 2006, 2008/09 and 2009/10 
  2. Annual trend figures for single-use bags for 2006, 2008/09 and 2009/10  
  3. Total bag use figures for month of May (2006, 2009 and 2010)
  4. Single-use bag figures for month of May (2006, 2009 and 2010)

Note: Rounding may cause discrepancies between the figures

1. Annual trend figures for total bag use

  2006
(baseline)
2008/09 2009/10 Number reduction from
06 – 09/10
Weight reduction from
06 – 09/10
UK 10.9 billion 7.2 billion 6.5 billion 4.5 billion (41%) 39,700 tonnes (- 42%)

2. Annual trend figures for single-use bags

  Number of single-use bags % reduction
2008/09-2009/10
2008/09 2009/10
UK 6,714 million 6,113 million  9%
England 5,465 million 5,025 million 8%
Scotland 619 million 540 million 13%
Wales 416 million 353 million 15%
Northern Ireland 208 million 189 million 9%

3. Total bag figures for the month of May

  2006
(baseline)
May 2009 May 2010 Number reduction
from 06 – 10
Weight reduction
from 06 - 10
UK 896 million 510 million 502 million 395 million (44%) 4,750 tonnes (53%)

4. Single-use bag figures for the month of May

  2006 (baseline) May 2009 May 2010 Number reduction
from 06 – 10
Weight reduction
from 06 - 10
UK 870 million 452 million 475 million 394 million (45%) 3,859 tonnes (54%)
England 718 million 372 million 391 million 327 million (46%) 3,200 tonnes (54%)
Scotland 78.4 million 39.6 million 43 million 35 million (45%) 343 tonnes (54%)
Wales 53.2 million 27.1 million 27 million 27 million (50%) 247 tonnes (57%)
Northern Ireland 19.8 million 12.2 million 14 million 5 million (27%) 67 tonnes (39%)

Other useful information - May 2010 - single-use bags per person

  Population Bag use Bags used per person
in May 2010
UK 61.4 million 475 million 7.7
England 51.5 million 391 million 7.6
Scotland 5.2 million 43 million 8.3
Wales 3.0 million 27 million 8.9
Northern Ireland 1.8 million 14 million 8.1

Data source: Population data (mid-year estimates for 2008, ONS)

  1. WRAP’s measurement of results is based on two timeframes: Annual trend data based on the year running from 1 June – 31 May and bag use in the month of May against a 2006 baseline
  2. The data includes results from: Asda, Cooperative Group, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, Tesco & Waitrose
  3. 6.3% sales growth figure provided by Kantar Worldpanel
  4. WRAP’s remit is to issue the data for carrier bag use across the sector as a whole and not to release individual retailer figures
  5. Further information on carrier bags can be found at www.wrap.org.uk/bags
  6. WRAP works with businesses and individuals to help them reap the benefits of reducing waste, developing sustainable products and using resources in an efficient way
  7. Established as a not-for-profit company in 2000, WRAP is backed by government funding from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  8. Individual retailers and UK Governments should be contacted directly.
Contact

WRAP Press Office

01295 819 695 / 819 677